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Executive Summary

  • This Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) analyses a legislative option and various supporting or complementary measures intended to encourage better quality legislation. The legislative option is limited to one recommended in an earlier Treasury RIS on the potential of a Regulatory Responsibility Act.
  • The legislative measure considered is an obligation to publish a disclosure statement for government Bills, substantive government SOPs, and delegated legislation drafted by PCO, at the time that legislation is introduced or published.
  • The disclosure statement would be prepared by the administering department. It would flag certain significant powers or unusual features the legislation contains, and provide information about the nature of the quality assurance work undertaken in the process of developing the legislation.
  • This disclosure is expected to enhance Parliamentary and public scrutiny of the legislation, by highlighting matters that may be linked to legislative quality. It is also expected to increase departmental attention to quality assurance standards.
  • In order to limit risks, it is proposed to legislate only for a basic set of disclosures that we are confident will be workable for almost all Bills and covered delegated legislation. Some extended disclosures would be trialled administratively.
  • Incomplete or wrong disclosures will not give rise to legal remedies or sanctions. The incentives for compliance will come from public service respect for the law and reputational effects, supported by clear expectations and timely reminders.
  • The proposed content of the disclosure statement has been informed by consultation and testing undertaken by Treasury with departmental and targeted external contacts, supported by a discussion document that incorporated a set of indicative legislative provisions drafted for Treasury by PCO.
  • The expected compliance costs of the disclosure statement requirement are low. The support measures give rise to more costs but, in many cases, these could be managed within departmental baselines. Having departments absorb these costs is likely, however, to affect the timeliness and levels of expected compliance.
  • Three illustrative packages of measures (plus the status quo option) are considered, which vary in their level of ambition and resource cost. The legislative element is the same for each package, and so the differences between packages relate to the scope of the non-legislative measures proposed.
  • While the measures in each package have a common theme and are intended to be mutually reinforcing, it is quite possible to pick and mix individual measures. The key measures in each package are outlined in the summary table below.
  • No preferred package has been explicitly identified, but we doubt that the status quo is a durable long-term option. Choices about the range of measures to adopt come down to a judgement about appetite for change, though the most ambitious package would take a number of years to implement.
  • Although the outcomes are uncertain, we believe there is enough potential flexibility in how the measures in Packages 1 to 3 can be implemented to ensure costs do not exceed the realised benefits whatever measures are chosen.
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